Progress in Modern Psychology: The Legacy of American Functionalism

By D. Alfred Owens; Mark Wagner | Go to book overview

7
Biochemical Determinants of Functional Nervous System Development

JOANNE M. BELL

A central theme of early functional psychology was the study of organisms' adaptation to a changing environment. Along with that theme came a strong sense of affiliation with other biological sciences. In the opening chapter of his Psychology, Harvey Carr ( 1925) is explicit about these interdisciplinary connections, expressing hope that in time psychology will even "be able to borrow from biochemistry" (p. 14). It appears that that time has come, as this chapter by Joanne Bell presents major strides toward realizing his hope. Nowadays, the forefront of research on the biological basis of behavior is in the multidisciplinary field of neuroscience. As a neuroscientist, Dr. Bell combines the resources of biochemical and behavioral methods to study early development of the central nervous system. These early processes pose the most basic constraints on an organism's ultimate behavioral and mental capacities. Dr. Bell often points out that at no other stage during the entire life span are the organism's adaptations to the environment as crucial as those made during the perinatal period (the time preceding and following birth). It is interesting to note that, at this stage, the mother's body is an important part of the environment. Research on the early development of the rat's central nervous system has already yielded new insights into the organization and maturation of the brain. In addition to leading us toward fuller understanding of normal development, this approach may eventually help to assure the brightest possible future for every infant. DAO

The phenomenon of birth is preceded by an equally complex process: growth and development in the womb. Miraculous changes occur in the fetus during

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